The ICO has today levelled a £140,000 fine at a pregnancy and childcare wesbite for illegally collecting and selling information for the purpose of political campaigning.
The data was used by Experian Marketing Services in Labour’s targeting of new parents in the run up to the 2017 General Election.
“The Labour Party was then able to send targeted direct mail to mums living in areas with marginal seats about its intention to protect Sure Start Children’s centres”
Emma’s Diary , a company providing advice on pregnancy and childcare, sold customer data to Experian Marketing Services – a branch of the credit reference agency – specifically for use by the Labour Party.
According the Information Commissioner, Experian then created a database which the party used to profile the new mums in the run up to the 2017 General Election.
“The Labour Party was then able to send targeted direct mail to mums living in areas with marginal seats about its intention to protect Sure Start Children’s centres,” the ICO said this morning.
Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner said: “The relationship between data brokers, political parties and campaigns is complex. Even though this company was not directly involved in political campaigning, the democratic process must be transparent.”
“All organisations involved in political campaigning must use personal information in ways that are transparent, lawful and understood by the UK public,” Ms Denham continued.
Previous allegations involving the Labour Party’s use of data surfaced in April this year, when Leave.EU’s Andy Wigmore made documents available showing previously unknown co-operation.
Sensitive personal data of Labour voters was processed by a third party
and shared with Arron Banks’s Leave.EU, Cambridge Analytica, and others
associated with unofficial groups campaigning to leave the European
Union in February 2016.
Data based upon demographics, class, finances and ethnicity, was used to identify core groups of Labour voters to be targeted with UKIP-led messaging and was instrumental in deciding where Nigel Farage appeared to speak during the Brexit campaign.
At the time, Wigmore was clear, saying: “Basically it was Labour data that formed our strategy and therefore where we deployed Farage etc.”
One source within Labour also responded to the April allegations, saying: “Fuck me, this is a scandal and a half.”
The ICO has put the UK’s 11 main political parties on notice to have their data-sharing practices audited later this year. The ICO also has outstanding enquiries with a number of data brokers, including Experian.
Denham published an unprecedented progress report in July, accompanied by a document entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal Information and Political Influence, giving long awaited details of some of the organisations and individuals under investigation, as well as outlining enforcement action taken so far.
The action taken is unlikely to alleviate the concerns of those who have been following this story.
Representations from the Emma’s Diary have been considered and today’s announcement confirms the monetary penalty.
Ms Denham added: “The ICO is committed to monitoring data brokers, political parties and online platforms and using new audit and enforcement powers so that the public can have confidence that parties and political campaign groups are complying with the law.”